Where is it?
The way in to Leicester. There's not much choice for people travelling to this East Midlands city by road — if you're coming off the M1 you'll probably have to come through this junction as a sort of initiation test. The former A46 into the city passes through, as does the outer ring road.
It was spotted by Rob.
What's wrong with it?
Everything. I mean, have you seen it? The whole area is strewn with big wide roads, traffic signals, badly aligned roundabouts, odd bits of flyover and so on. There's an uncomfortable air that suggests the whole thing evolved over a period of many years without any particular design, and it's now reached the point where nobody has the faintest idea what to do with the damn thing to fix it. There's also a slim possibility that it is now so complex that it has become sentient, and the confusion it inflicts on travellers is done with malicious intent.
A map cannot do justice to the incredible number of traffic lights that rule over this nightmarish skidpan. There is a fresh red light awaiting you at every turn, and before each one, the road suddenly widens to five, twenty, maybe a hundred lanes. The signs telling you what lane to be in are too late. You're stuck now because there's a lorry on your left and a queue of traffic on your right, and now you will have to resign yourself to being forced to visit the retail park for the third time this morning. Perhaps after a cup of coffee you'll have another go. After all, there's no other way out but through the junction again.
Why is it wrong?
This chaos grew from tidiness. Once, M1 junction 21 had a simple dual-carriageway link to the A46 and all was well. It's still in there somewhere — the link from the M1 to the roundabout on Narborough Road South. But over time, as new roads have come and retail parks have infested the area, bits and pieces have been bolted on as cheaply as possible. Now look at the fine mess we're in.
Unfortunately part of the problem is the large number of high-capacity roads that become entangled here. So much traffic is swapping from one to another that it's hard to pick any particular road as the "main" one.
What would be better?
My own solution to this problem is simply not to visit Leicester, but for those that don't have the luxury of choosing, a couple of flyovers might make all the difference. There's plenty of space for them in what is already an area strewn with multi-lane carriageways and grassy verges of epic proportions. Where they should run and which traffic flows they should carry is another question entirely.
Right to reply
It is a local urban myth that there are more traffic lights per square metre in Leicester than any other city; if you think this interchange is bad, there are a few even worse examples of traffic light infestation nearer the city centre. It seems to be the City and County Councils' preferred solution to virtually every traffic problem. So the tip for visitors is that the A5460 is the most direct route into the city; the A563 forms part of an outer ring road. Those who want the direct route should ignore the first exit signposted for Leicester as they come off j21 and carry on to the (sigh) traffic light-controlled roundabout at Fosse Park, then take the second left exit.
I used to go through this mess regularly as a child coming up to visit relatives in Leicester. The description is spot on, although there are some movements which are easier and better than others, though in general it is an utter shambles. Fosse Park (the retail park) must make it a nightmare at weekends, I think I'm right in saying there are at least 3 entrances to it from the junction! Definately needs a major re-working, but I wouldn't envy the planners given such a task!
As quite rightly said, this is a simple affair made chaotic by daft planning decisions. This wasn't how it was meant to be however...
The link road to the M1 wasn't just any ordinary dual carriageway link road, but it opened as the A46(M) motorway, which simply ran straight here from the M1 - no silly junctions in the middle, no traffic lights, nothing.
The hint to the original plans can be seen on the Outer Ring Road. Notice how the nice route in from the east seems to aim straight for the Narborough Road roundabout, yet at the last minute desperately tries to avoid it by taking a detour round to the south via all of those lovely traffic lights. Notice also that nice corridor of open land (that's recently had some buildings dumped on part of it) to the northwest of the junction.
Yes, that's right - a simple flyover junction for the Outer Ring Road with room for some extra free-flow sliproads that nicely avoid the roundabout. You know, the kind of thing that you see at motorway junctions up and down the country.
Without the retail park dumped right on the line of the ORR, the junction (as planned) would be far, far simpler and far, far easier to use.
As a Leicesterian I can only apologise. Rumour has it that Leicestershire County Council had plans to make the whole area far easier by taking a spur from the M69 and running a direct route with no junctions past the whole Fosse Park debacle, thus making it all easier. Unfortunately they spent the money on a 'Space Centre' - like Leicester had anything to do with the moon landings! You are left with a mess of roads and traffic lights determined to get you to visit Fosse Park shopping centre (three lanes dedicated to it!). Sorry world!
I think this shows the failings of the planning system, relating to car-dependent out of town shopping as opposed to nice town centres, as much as it does mediocre highway design. You could build an Olympic size skating rink on those car parks, and turn the B4114 / A563 / A5460 "triangle" into a NASCAR circuit, and still have room for dual carriageways everywhere...
You could alternately fit London's Chinatown into that central area. I wonder where I would rather be...
Two days ago I had an "opportunity" to drive around this lot to get to the Marriott Hotel. Oh it is so really, really dreadful as others have said, but I already knew that.
What is truly shocking is that despite the multi-lane traffic lights, there are virtually no signs to tell you which lane to take, and, worst of all, the lanes and road numbers painted in each lane have mostly disappeared from traffic wear.
Whoever is in charge should hang their heads in deep, deep shame. I'll bet nobody from the council will be prepared to defend this appalling junction.
I used to use this junction regularly over 5 years when taking my sons to Leicester and Leeds Universities. I found two solutions: a) take a coffee break at the McDonalds at Meridian E and S before negotiating the rest of the maze; or b) come off the northbound M1 one junction earlier at J20 and meander along the A4304 and then A6 into Leicester!
Couldn't agree more with all the comments on this one, I have been negotiating it on and off for the last five years and still get it wrong. The worst issue I have is, in having found the Hilton Hotel, how on earth do I get anywhere (other than Fosse Park shopping) on leaving it.
I have a lot of family members in and around Leicester, and for as long as I can remember (over twenty years), have passed through this junction quite a lot - only as a passenger, mind - and each time I've gone through this junction, I've been extremely confused about where we were supposed to be going. It's a mess. Wide roads, confusing signage - I could go on. I haven't yet driven through this junction myself, but I have a good feeling I'll get pretty lost. It's in dire need of improvement, but without traffic flow figures, it's difficult to know which routes should get priority.
Leicestershire triumphs again! Two junctions from Catthorpe and we have this dogs breakfast. Spoken to local traffic planners and a retired traffic policeman, 'What can be done about it?' It appears nothing. Its gone too far to do anything rather than level it and start again. The A46 northern ring road feeding in traffic to the M1 half a junction north adds to the chaos.Traffic attempts to join the M69 south via a lights controlled roundabout. Vehicles back up the slip road onto the M1.
I travel this road every day to and from work as I work on Meridian Business Park. The junction is utterly ridiculous in the way it is set out, and now they are building yet another addition to the mess in the form of a bridge. A lot of the traffic problems seem to be from no-one knowing which lane to take, or if they do then they stick to the wrong lanes and try to cut in at the last minute to save queuing in traffic. A few strategically positioned traffic officers would soon sort this problem out (and also earn some extra revenue in fines). This would soon speed up the traffic as people might be tempted to actually drive correctly. Coupled with some assistance from the council with some road signs we could actually reduce travel times around this junction and lower some peoples blood pressure into the bargain! I agree with some of the comments here that the only real solution is to flatten it and start again but who knows what pain we will have to suffer whilst we do that!
I used this junction for the first time today and fortunately knew which way to go, but the suddenness with which the road widens in places was slightly unnerving. I'm just glad it wasn't rush hour!
On the plus side, I guess this means I've passed the initiation test...
A solution may be coming (possibly) - In the draft proposals for the A46 Leicester Eastern Bypass (East midlands expressway scheme) there is scope for the M69 to have grade separated spurs added to run much of the A46 Eastern traffic back onto the southbound M1, then taking it off again at a new proposed Junction 20a somewhere near Cosby (and circumnavigating Leicester's Eastern edge). The traffic levels across J21 would greatly improve under the scheme, but unless an investment is made to provide a direct dual lane link to the city centre along an alternative arterial route there will always be problems at the B4114 / Fosse park / A563 roundabout. Chances are the EM Expressway will not get built (Leicester does not invest in roads), but long term somethings got to give - there are regularly 30-45 min delays getting off the M69 at peak hours.